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Netflix Subscribers Dismayed with VPN Ban

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Netflix subscribers outside the United States of America have been complaining about the lack of content in its library, which has become a roadblock when it comes to watching geo-blocked movies and TV shows. For those who are not familiar with the term ‘geo-blocked’, it means that a particular content may only be available for specific locations (a TV show which is licensed in the US may not be licensed in the UK, so UK subscribers won’t be able to watch it). That is why subscribers have resorted to using virtual private network (VPN) services in order to watch shows that are included in the geographic content licensing restrictions.

However, early this year, Netflix has decided to block VPN services in order to strictly implement licensing restrictions among their content. This action has received negative responses from its subscribers, because most of them use VPNs to access wider content library than the ones which are available in their countries.

Netflix VPN Ban

The Decline in Netflix’s Subscriber Growth

According to David Glance in an article published by The Conversation, there are some factors that are probably the cause of Netflix’s dwindling subscriber growth, with their share price falling by 14%. The first of these theories is the price rise in Netflix’s subscription. Netflix has eliminated its legacy price deals for early subscribers, so the increase in the subscription price could explain why users are canceling their subscriptions.

Another theory, as mentioned before, suggested that the dwindling subscriber growth could be caused by Netflix’s lack of content in its library. Netflix has been said to be ‘spending its budget on its own content at the expense of licensing deals with other content providers’. The US library has been 40% smaller compared to 4 years ago, and the overseas library even more so, making Netflix subscribers use VPN services to access more content and maximize their monthly payments.

An online petition, headed by OpenMedia Digital Rights Specialist Laura Tribe, has gotten more than 45,000 signatures from unhappy subscribers coming from different countries all over the world. In an open letter addressed to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Tribe said that subscribers should not have to choose between Netflix and privacy – paying to watch high-quality content is a good thing especially if subscribers are doing so without their privacy being compromised.

Netflix

“We need easy, accessible, and effective tools to protect our privacy online while still enjoying the Internet we love – and VPNs do just that,” said Tribe.

How Netflix Blocks VPNs

Paul Bischoff, a technology expert at Comparitech, explained how VPN services are weeded out by Netflix using two methods.

The first method is to identify and block the shared IP addresses used by the service providers. Since a single shared IP address can be utilized by up to thousands of users at a time, it is cost-effective for VPN services and convenient to VPN users since it makes it more difficult to trace a single user. But by identifying only a single VPN user, Netflix can be able to block everyone using that single shared IP address. This way, it is easier for Netflix to block numerous users in a single sweeping. Netflix can even compare personal information such as billing addresses by using the IP address location of the user.

The second method is by using deep packet inspection: since Netflix is unable to decrypt the VPN connection, it will search for the protocol and algorithm used to encrypt it. Netflix will then block the IP address once it is able to determine if, for example, the connection is using TunnelBear or ExpressVPN. This method is also used by countries with strict censorship laws such as China to exterminate VPN users.

Benefits of Getting A VPN

Using a virtual private network is just as important as having your own internet connection, especially if privacy is one of your major concerns. When you have a VPN connection, you have a secure and private encrypted tunnel where all your data passes through, safe from snoops who want to go through your personal information. Your real IP address is also hidden and the VPN service provides you with a new one so it will be difficult to trace you.

The same principle applies when you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi, such as in coffee shops or airports. Anyone can just snoop in on your device using the public connection, but a VPN makes sure that the connection is secure even if it is public.

VPNs are also widely used so people can bypass geo-restrictions on government websites, and movies and TV shows. This is what the dispute is all about, because many Netflix subscribers are using VPNs to access the content library of US, which has a lot more than the overseas library content. And now that Netflix has blocked VPN services, it’s a bad news, both for the Netflix subscriber and the VPN companies.

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